Thursday, January 14, 2016

Week 2 of the New

Down to the wire, I have a submission for my friend Tami Veldura's weekly prompt.

It's a "Roll of the Dice" kind of thing. I've participated in a few before, over at Terrible Minds. If you don't know the drill, there are two categories and you roll the dice for a genre from column A and a trope from column B. Plus there's a picture to use as well, or not as you please, and a quote. I'm too lazy and too late to repost her criteria this week. Please use the link for the details.

And 1000 words this week.

I'm coming in at 683 and it was a difficult number to get to.

Because I'm visiting my old Puritan Scarlet Letter girl accused of witchcraft by her own cousin. It's been a while, so get caught up if you wish first.

Installment One
Installment Two
Installment Three

And now, I offer this post in response.

The Last Prayers for the Innocent

Deliverance felt hollow. For months her baby kicked, her own delightful tormentor. The memory of her false sailor was born in the dank and dark, and stripped from her cell the moment the midwife severed the cord.

No one, not the midwife, nor the jailer, no one told her if she bore a son or a daughter. That it lived she knew, hearing it cry mere moments after her last push brought it forth to the cruel world.

Her baby had protected her these long weeks, keeping her from the instruments of torture and the panicked, ludicrous questions from her judges. It was a blessing, they told her. A mercy that they had not ripped the poor innocent from her. Otherwise, a pressing, perhaps, as Old Marshal Whitehead endured. Sandwiched between boards while pound after pound of rocks squeezed the names of his accomplices from his lungs.

All they managed to take was the poor man's life. He was sixty-seven autumns and a grandfather and in her childhood, Deliverance had not known a gentler soul.

Trial by fire was suggested, but Lord Stipling said the smell of burning flesh would make his delicate new wife ill. Hanging was reserved for those who had confessed their sin, and Deliverance had no intention of lying to win an easy death. Christ, the sweet lamb of salvation, was crucified. For her sins. She could not, would not fail Him again.

What was left? she wondered. Water? She heard of trial by water, bound like a hog and tossed in a deep river, rocks tied to her waist. The demon in a witch would float, preserving her life, and a guilty verdict passed...Or was it an innocent soul would float and so when she drowned, they would bury her outside of the churchyard, needles shoved through her eyes to keep her corpse from rising from the dead.

But the question that went unanswered, that bothered her the most, was what would become of her child?

For the first time in months, she prayed for the soul of another. "Thy will be done that I shall die, so be it," she whispered against the stone. "I ask only that my child be safe all his days, that he keeps thee kind in his heart, and that some day he will forgive me for abandoning him to this cruel world. I give him to thy care."

She woke as the light of day crept through the weaknesses of her cell, her knuckles sore from praying. Childbirth had left her so fatigued that she wondered how she woke at all.

Something was amiss. The stale, mildewed stench of of her prison was laced with ash...Her heart thumped in her chest. Had they decided on fire after all? Was this the day she died?

Panic pulsed in her blood, leaving a bitter aftertaste in her mouth. She summoned the strength to rise from the floor and stagger to the bars. Her jailer cowered in the corner clutching a bible to his chest, whimpering like a kicked puppy.

"Mr. Broadshears?" Deliverance smacked the bars to gain his attention. "Mr. Broadshears!"

The terror that gripped him so acutely scalded his face, his bulbous nose crimson as one deep in his cups, spoke that he was as shackled to his fears as she was to her sins. Deliverance tried to make sense of it, but she heard screaming, the sounds of chaos, the hollering yelps of the heathen savages that populated the foresaken New World.

My baby, she thought, and she caught her jailor's fear like a fever. She had to get out, to find her child, to protect him. "Please, merciful and loving Father," she begged. "Please, if this is to be my last day, let me spend my last breath in defense of my poor baby!"

"Deliverance!" Esther's pitched voice wept through the walls.

"Esther! Cousin! Save my baby!" Deliverance staggered to the source of her only hope. "Save my baby, Esther. He's an innocent. Esther?"

She listened to the drone of terror that bled through the walls and heard nothing more from her cousin.

So that's all I got this week. Give me what'chya got!

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